Actions

Planet

From Civil society Scotland Wiki


Context[edit | edit source]

To achieve responsible environmental action for Scotland and the planet for future generations, Scotland must address the climate emergency and secure nature's recovery, according to the principles of environmental justice.

2019 was a milestone year in the global response to climate breakdown. Severe weather events have become the norm, a landmark report has confirmed nature is in crisis, and popular movements and global reactions have demanded real change.[i] The last decade was the warmest on record and global temperatures are continuing to rise. If we are to prevent irreversible damage to the planet, we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below within 10 years and urgently begin to reverse the loss of biodiversity. As a result, many policy makers and politicians are now looking to 2030 as the year by which to have achieved significant progress.

The Scottish Government has officially declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ after widespread protests at inaction and the First Minister has recognised the loss of biodiversity as an equally serious problem. As a country, Scotland has been forward thinking in its approach to climate change, with ambitious emissions reductions targets and other policy action, such as doubling funding for active travel, to address the emergency which we currently face. The recent UK Committee on Climate Change report stated that the UK can reduce its territorial emissions to net-zero by 2050. Scotland, due to its larger capacity to store greenhouse gas emissions in new woodlands and restored peatlands, has committed to meet this target by 2045. The Scottish Government has now brought this target into law in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, which requires Scotland to have reduced its emissions by 75% by 2030, and incrementally working towards net-zero by 2045.

Maintaining, restoring and enhancing biodiversity will be essential to mitigate climate breakdown, adapt to current and future changes in the climate, and increase the resilience in both rural and urban environments.

Promoting and encouraging modal shift from cars to active travel (walking, cycling and wheeling) and public transport (more sustainable modes) for short everyday journeys, and ending the continued expansion of the trunk road network in Scotland is essential in order to deal with the challenges of climate change and fundamental for achieving the 2030 target. The transport sector is the single largest emitting sector in Scotland, accounting for 37% of greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions starting to rise again following years of decline. Vehicles are also the primary source of particulate matter emissions (from braking and tyre ware) – small, very fine, invisible particles – which has a significant negative impact on air quality and are widely accepted to be harmful at any level/concentration. This has a clear social justice and inequalities impact, as it is people in the most deprived areas, often with pre-existing health conditions, who suffer the most from poor air quality, and has important implications for transport accessibility.

The Scottish Government’s 2030 target means that it must act now and implement the solutions for three-quarters of the emissions problem – the current and next government are crucial. However, arguably these targets do not go far enough, as fossil fuel extraction and multi-million pound road building programmes continue to be supported. A much more immediate and radical response is required that details how we will address the climate emergency and ensure action matches the high-level commitments. Clearly, public desire for climate actions is there; it must now be matched by political action.

Internationally, the SDGs provide a solid foundation for action on climate change and offer a platform for united and coherent action at an international, national, regional and local level and the voluntary sector has a key role to play in this. The SDGs are intended to bridge policy silos, and highlight the deep intersectionality of global social inequality, unequal development, climate change, access to resources and justice and biodiversity loss. The recent review, led by Oxfam Scotland, the SDG Network, and the University of the West of Scotland, with contributions from across the voluntary sector, concluded that significantly more action is necessary in Scotland.

Ambitions[edit | edit source]

  • Reduction – A significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is required in Scotland. Widespread and swift action needs to take place to achieve as well as look beyond the current net-zero targets.
  • Meaningful – There needs to be recognition that urgent action is required which helps to facilitate the meaningful recovery of nature and living within planetary limits.
  • Principles – Environmental justice principles must be built into the foundations of all climate, ecological, and related social policymaking. By assessing the impact of policy on the environment at the very beginning of the decision-making process, future challenges can be identified and addressed.

By 2030[edit | edit source]

Ambitious targets:

If we are to prevent irreversible damage to the planet, we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below within 10 years and urgently begin to reverse the loss of biodiversity. To achieve this, more ambitious targets are required in Scotland, targets which must be set now. Additionally, following the hopeful achievement of net-zero ambitions, Scotland should seek to implement targets which work towards the country becoming carbon positive.

To reach these ambitions, there must be widespread agreement on what is required to reverse the trends which are significantly impacting Scotland’s biodiversity. Cross-sector consensus is pivotal to facilitating the effective protection of Scotland’s ecosystem.

Stress-testing and empowerment:

Environmental stress testing should be implemented for every new policy and budgetary decision made in Scotland, alongside the embedding of robust environmental governance practice. By ensuring those at the top levels of decision-making are considering the environment, communities will be inspired and empowered to make positive environmental changes at a local level.

Many policy decisions are made without ensuring their sustainability in relation to the environment. If Scotland wishes to protect the environment, sustainability needs to be moved into the heart of all policymaking, and should be present throughout the policy cycle.

Restore biodiversity:

Scotland must maintain, restore and enhance biodiversity in order to mitigate climate breakdown, adapt to changes in climate, and increase the resilience in both rural and urban environments. Committed action must be taken to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity and natural assets.

Increased action to restore biodiversity requires increased awareness, the integration of biodiversity values in strategies and policies alongside the promotion of sustainable consumption and production. From these foundations, Scotland can begin to make steps forward.

Future looking:

Scotland should adopt a Future Generations principle which moves beyond political and economic short-sightedness and recognises Scotland’s responsibility as a global citizen.

Following the example of Wales, who have implemented the Well-being of Future Generations Act, may help to curate cross-sector solutions to long term challenges such as climate change in a long-term, non- partisan way. Scotland should consider options for implementing similar legislation in order to revolutionise the way in which policy is developed and executed, and prioritise citizen wellbeing as a key measurement and outcome.